Deirdre Le Faye has researched the life and times of Jane Austen for the last forty years. She has published the definitive factual biography, Jane Austen: A Family Record, plus a new edition of Jane Austen’s Letters, several other books, and numerous scholarly articles on Austenian topics.
This is my Christmas gift to all my Janeite friends and readers: an interview with her! Moreover, Oxford University Press has provided a copy of Ms Le Faye's latest edition of Jane Austen's Letters for a giveaway, this time limited to US & Canada. Leave your comments and e-mail addresses, this is an extraordinary occasion to win this precious addition to your Austen shelf. The giveaway ends on December 31st.
First of all, let me say it is a great honour and a joy to have you as my very special guest, Ms Le Faye, since I most ardently admire you and your incredibile work as an Austen scholar. I’ve read and own some of your books and I just wonder, how did you come up dedicating so much of your research work just to Jane Austen?
Because I had the good luck to gain access to the Austen-Leigh archive, which no-one else had bothered to study properly beforehand.
Jane Austen has never been as popular as she is now. What’s the appeal of her world for the 21st century reader?
I believe it's because most people think her late Georgian/Regency period was more elegant, calmer, and more civilised than our present noisy century.
What, instead, would Jane most appreciate of our world?
The improvement in medical care; if she were living nowadays, I expect her terminal illness could have been prevented or cured.
Which novel is your favourite among the major six and why?
Mansfield Park, because it is so beautifully planned that the outcome seems quite inevitable when one looks back at the beginning.
Who are your favourite Austen hero and heroine?
Mr Knightley and Emma.
You know, Ms Le Faye, I’m a teacher of English as a foreign language to teenage students in Italy and I love teaching English literature (especially 19th century authors) . What do you think Jane Austen can teach to nowadays youth?
That they should be intelligent, sensible, and honest in thought and deed.
I often feature Austen fan fiction (sequels , spin-offs , what-if stories) here on My Jane Austen Book Club and I think they are great fun to read. But don’t you think that all those adaptations, both written and for the screen, could alter, mislead or even distort the interpretation of Austen’s work?
Most of these prequels, sequels and spin-offs are fairly silly and inadequate; but if they encourage readers to go back to the original novels, so much the better.
You’ve just published the fourth edition of Jane Austen’s Letters for Oxford University Press and your familiarity with Jane Austen’s life is incredibile. So, I’d like to know your personal opinion about her personality: was she more a romantic girl or a matter-of- fact woman? More sense or more sensibility?
She was both, as her elder brother James knew, and stated in a little verse he wrote to her when she published Sense and Sensibility: "Fair Elinor's Self in that Mind is exprest, / And the Feelings of Marianne live in that Breast."
And what do you think of the little we know about her affairs of the heart?
That she never met a man who was her equal in intelligence, and wouldn't settle for anyone stupider.
Have you noticed/discovered anything that you hadn’t before, working on Jane’s private correspondence again?
When composing my new Subject Index, I was surprised to see how often she suffered from colds! - but then, so did many of the other people she knew.
Are you working on a new Austen project at the moment?
I'm always researching and making notes with future publications in mind.
That’s all, Ms Le Faye. Thanks a lot for being my kind guest and answering my questions. And special thanks for all your precious work, which is immensely appreciated by Austenites all over the world. Merry Christmas!
(Oxford | December 15, 2011 | Hardcover | 688 pages | $45.00 | ISBN: 9780199576074)
“Life seems but a quick succession of busy nothings,” said Jane Austen. And yet, the unfolding of these nothings is what makes up the amazing stories of our lives, whether they are the lives of characters in books, or the lives of writers. Few writers are as revered, emulated, and beloved as JaneAusten, her novels holding a secure place in the cannon of English literature. Now, at the bicentennial anniversary of the publication of Sense and Sensibility—Austen’s first novel in print—comes an intimate look into the life of Jane Austen in her own words in JANE AUSTEN’S LETTERS: Fourth Edition(Oxford | December 2011), edited by Deirdre Le Faye.
In these letters—mostly addressed to members of her family, and the majority of those to her sister, Cassandra—Austen shares her personal insight into contemporary events and places in her own turn of phrase. Her observations serve to further our understanding of life in that time, and in so doing, we learn some of her own secrets. Most significantly, the gossip, witty social commentary, humor, and voice found in Austen’s letters echo unmistakably in such novels as Northanger Abbey, Emma, andPride and Prejudice.
The fourth edition of JANE AUSTEN’S LETTERS also includes:
· A new insightful preface by Le Faye
· Reorganization of the letters into their correct chronological sequence
· Complete annotations for each letter as well as a list of the physical details of the manuscripts
· Updated and enhanced biographical and topographical indexes and a new subject index
· Added notes to the general index
Scholars, students, and fans of Jane Austen will relish in this exposure of the novelist’s life as she experienced it. Le Faye’s updates in JANE AUSTEN’S LETTERS: Fourth Edition greatly enhance our understanding of the life and times of one of the most popular writers of all time.
Enter the giveaway of one copy, leaving your comment + e-mail address. Open to US & Canada readers only, this giveaway ends on December 31. Good luck and Merry Christmas Time!
Best wishes to you all!